Friday, November 05, 2010

Screw Your Copyright Infringing Content Grab! Pay Me!

It was no surprise when I heard the story that a post by blogger Monica Gaudio had been lifted by a famous cooking magazine and posted on their site. Ms. Gaudio had been given a byline, but was never informed the post had been taken, nor was she paid for the scraped post (it was not re-posted, as there was no link back to Monica's original.)

Why should she have been both notified and paid? Because the site, Cook's Source is connected to a magazine which is ad supported. Even $10--the average payment offered by many teeny-tiny online mags/blogs that solicit contributors--would have been a nice (albeit cheap)gesture.

What Monica got was this terse response from the editor (taken from NPR's report on the incident):
...Honestly Monica, the web is considered "public domain" and you should be happy we just didn't "lift" your whole article and put someone else's name on it! It happens a lot, clearly more than you are aware of, especially on college campuses, and the workplace. If you took offence and are unhappy, I am sorry, but you as a professional should know that the article we used written by you was in very bad need of editing, and is much better now than was originally. Now it will work well for your portfolio. For that reason, I have a bit of a difficult time with your requests for monetary gain, albeit for such a fine (and very wealthy!) institution. We put some time into rewrites, you should compensate me! I never charge young writers for advice or rewriting poorly written pieces, and have many who write for me... ALWAYS for free!"

Wow. But I'm not surprised by any of this--I've heard the nonsense before.  BTW I live in Western New England (oddly), the magazine's region, yet I know of a number of "journalists" around the country who have no clue about new media, blogging, publishing online, etc. but are working for online publications. Note to those hiring: make sure your "digital" people understand about blogging, copyright, linking, etc. Don't be an ass and hire someone just because they have print creds and maybe took a college class on "writing for the web." They may know writing, but they don't know jack about the web.

Be that as it may, what else does not surprise me--about what was done and the editor's response--is that this game, as the editor notes, has been going on for awhile. I've been blogging since 1995, and some of my stuff over the years has been scraped and put on splogs (fake blogs) for one reason or another. I was quoted in both Time and Newsweek back in '97, and neither linked back to me. But that's not all....

My first and only post for The Huffington Post went through an editor, and I was not compensated for that--but I was told upfront I wouldn't be. I was a new writer back then, and liked the promise of the return of "traffic" for my blog. Which never materialized. So, because my goal was to get paid, I didn't write any more for The Huffington Post....because the "cachet" of writing for HufPo and $3 might not be enough for a latte at Starbucks...but I digress again....

Some of the posts on my blog (this as well as my old personal blog) were also in very bad need of editing. I never asked anyone to edit them, and since it's my blog, I am not obligated to edit them any further than spell check will allow. And I've never heard of anyone scraping a post, editing it, and NOT linking or informing the original author.

Once I was asked by the then-editor of Silicon Alley Business Insider for a post. I was told that I wasn't going to get paid, but that was ok, as I know the rep of that publication, and wanted the byline (their reasoning was that it wasn't an original post. that's fine by me.) I obliged, and sent the link. He took the post, did a quick edit--which he told me he was going to do--and then posted it on SABI. And I got some traffic. That's the first post I ever did for someone else that actually *did* pay me in traffic. SABI was totally up front about the process, the editing, the reason for not paying. If a publication is up-front with me, and I believe the publication will enhance my reputation, I *may* consent to a re-post of something I previously published. But I won't write/blog new content for free.

But now for a look at the point about the Internet being "public domain." I think there's a lot of confusion on this. We are told that if we post personal information on the Internet, that it is then "public domain" and can be scraped, repurposed, sold, used by marketers, etc. There is, however, a difference between the personal information we might "publish" on Facebook, and the post we "publish" on our blogs. As I understand it, even if we do not put in a copyright mark, there is implied copyright on blogs and other self-publishing platforms. I might not be getting paid because I choose not to have ads, but my work is protected by implied copyright. I could also add a Creative Commons License for a little extra protection. However, no one has a right to lift my work, edit it, and re-post it, even if "it happens a lot"--as it does when it's done by mainstream media outlets (many of whom have taken information from several of my posts--most notably two I've written on Google and personal searches--and never gave any credit), college students, corporate communications departments, and whomever else might feel the need for content.

There is a lot of weirdness going on right now regarding copyright, which could have lead to the editor's confusion. There are folks called "copyright trolls" who attack mainstream media outlets and say that they have a right to re-publish news articles in full. Here's one case in Las Vegas that details this kind of thing. Now, it's not right for bloggers to re-post articles in this manner, but it also isn't right for newspapers, magazines or others to re-post bloggers' posts either.

Actually, if the Cook's Source editor was really interested in knowing about copyright, a quick search on "blogs and implied copyright" gave me this wonderful article "Copyright Law: 12 Dos and Don'ts". This is an excellent breakdown of what is/isn't covered by U.S.copyright law, as well as what is and isn't considered "public domain." In fact, here's #7 of the don'ts:

7. Don’t assume that if you credit the author there is no copyright infringement

Still the other big issue out there that this massive faux pas brings up is the attitude about when to pay someone for their contribution. As I noted earlier, some small blogs will offer $10 or less for a post. And bigger new media outlets, like The Huffington Post, won't pay at all, even if something is edited. At "content mills" one can get paid whatever the publisher is offering or get paid/not paid on whatever earnings scheme the content mill offers ("scheme" not in the derogatory sense here.)

As for me--I've been at this writing thing long enough now that I expect to get paid more than $10 a post or a promise of traffic for any original blogging. I'm not going to submit my work to a mill so that I can get a clipping. I have those, albeit on the very esoteric topics of developments in mainstream journalism (but, hey, my work's not bad.) I'm not afraid of editors, but can do my own editing when required--I just need a day to let my eyes rest and to bring a new set to the work. And I think it's time others stand up for themselves and start demanding better pay. The golden moment of free user-generated content and notions that publications can stomp all over a blogger's implied copyright are over.

Further: The Copyright Clearance Center has some new stuff and advice to help bloggers ferret out copyright infringement. Check them out.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Why I'm Quitting Foursquare (you might want to think about it too....)

Update 11/13/10: Jon Evans @TechCrunch writes similar sentiments in
Dear Foursquare, Gowalla: Please Let's Stop Pretending This is Fun Um, yeah--because it's not...

By the time Foursquare came out, geo-location apps weren't news to me. I'd already heard of BriteKite and Gowalla. Friends (predominantly male) were using both to regularly inform me of their whereabouts. It was all rather ho-hum, and I wasn't necessarily interested in revealing my every whereabout to the people I follow on Twitter and Facebook. One of the reasons for that is that I, like most women, have been taught to be *very* careful about to whom we reveal our locations (so it's no real surprise that Pew reports they're not catching on.) Even folks we supposedly know and trust--whether Internet acquaintance or casual f2f acquaintance--wasn't to be naively trusted with all our regular location-based comings and goings.

But then, everyone started to get all freaky about Foursquare. "I'm the Mayor of Starbucks in Cambridge!" "I'm the Mayor of Dunkin' Donuts in Silver Springs!" "I'm the Insert the badge du jour here of the Roger Williams Hotel Cocktail Lounge!" Foursquare, you see, was more than just a way to let your "friends" know your location--it was also a game! The most super-fun game in the world! Because you could earn badges that told everybody how often you were at that location!

Oh, great. Now it's not just that I'm revealing my location, but I'm also revealing how many times I go to that particular location. That's not the smartest thing in the world for a woman to do.....and need I say why??

When I told some of my male acquaintances who regularly used geo-location apps, I was told how "square" I was, how I had to get with it, and I was being over-cautious. Yet rarely did I ever see their spouses or girlfriends giving away their whereabouts on a regular basis. Hmm...can anyone say "double standard"????

Given that what I do for a living often requires that I advise clients on the latest and greatest social networking sites, I felt it necessary to go in and check it out at least. Ever since Ann Landers lashed out at the Cure's "Let's Go to Bed," I'd vowed never to vehemently criticise something unless I really knew what it was about. So, I got me a Foursquare account....

At the beginning it seemed to be a time-sink. Whenever I was at a location, if the location wasn't in Foursquare, I got the privilege to be the first one to laboriously enter all the location information. If I wanted to use Foursquare effectively, I had to download the Foursquare app to my iPod Touch (didn't want to sacrifice good cell reception for a shiny, expensive iPhone.) Given that wifi's kind of spotty where I live, I never really used the app. And after the initial pain-in-the-ass location upload, I felt I simply didn't have time for it.

So, I stopped using it. To me, if I have to spend time with something, I just can't be bothered. There has to be a significant and compelling reason for me to be bothered.

Foursquare then started to come up with ways beyond its badge-earning game that might make it appealing to me. They started to form partnerships with retailers and to offer coupons based on my geo-location. So, if it knew I was at, oh, the Gap or something, it could give me a coupon for the Gap (when this was tried, even many Gap employees had no idea about Foursquare and no idea about the coupon. So much for corporate communications.)

Women are supposed to be all about the coupons and saving money, aren't we? As far as I'm concerned, not if it takes giving away my location information....and, contrary to what some acquaintances think, many people (not just women) are concerned about a loss of privacy due to the use of geo-location apps....

This brings me to the status of my Foursquare account, which has been dormant since that first use. Foursquare often reminds us that the info we put there is private, and that we shouldn't be friends with anyone we do not know personally (when it comes to those who might do women harm, sometimes it's not strangers--but I digress...) Odd thing is, though, with my dormant account, I seem to get a whole lot of requests to be "friends" from people I don't know. Which drives me up the wall....

And it's been all those people I don't know--be they network marketers, real estate agents, virtual stalkers, or anyone in between--that's contributed to my desire to delete my Foursquare account.

Which I just did.

Do I feel any remorse? Absolutely not.

But what about potential clients? How can I advise them properly if I don't personally use Foursquare???

Simple answer to this: I've used it--I know the upsides and the downsides, esp. if it's not maintained. Find out who the customer base is, and the most recent intelligence on the demographic represented in that customer base. Consider recent surveys on attitudes towards this particular form of social networking. Once this info is known, a determination can be made as to whether Foursquare might help or if maintaining it will be a time-sink. If the client's customers aren't there, then what's the point?

Further reading: check The Foursquare Conundrum on Bitches Get Stuff Done which gives another good p.o.v. on why neither women nor men should feel so darned comfortable giving away their locations.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Mayhill Fowler and the pitfalls on the road from unpaid blogger to paid journalist

The other day, Mayhill Fowler, the blogger who broke the "Bittergate" story announced that she was leaving the Huffington Post Fowler states in her intro: I want to be paid for my time and effort—or at a minimum, to get a little remuneration in return for the money I spend myself in order to do original reportage. I would not expect to be paid for punditry. But can a "blogger" go from rank punditry to reportage? Therein lies the rub...and it's not easy to overcome.

Fowler goes on to recount how she pitched stories to Huffington, only to have them rejected. Yet she continued to write/report for them for free. And when she was writing for OffTheBus, as a "citizen journalist," she never expected to get paid. She also never considered herself the kind of "who, what, when, where, why" type of journalist, but wants to get paid for political reporting (which, actually *is* a form of 5W journalism, whether you bury the lede or not.)

This seems to be the same dilemma of many a fine blogger finds his or herself in when they who would like to be taken seriously and be paid for their work. It's very easy for a journalist, or someone with a journalism or publishing background, to go from journalist to blogger. There are several celebrated "bloggers" who follow this pattern, including Josh Marshall and Ana Marie Cox. And I don't begrudge them their success, and obstacles they may have had to overcome. But having the the journalist(Marshall) or editorial (Cox) creds before they became maverick bloggers was probably an advantage that many of us among the "unwashed" don't have.

In the eyes of the folks who edit and publish, previous career creds mean something. They mean, perhaps, that the individual understands the process that creates journalism. That they even might understand standards of objectivity and the pursuit of truth.

But that doesn't mean that those of us who did not get a degree in journalism or go to work in publishing/media straight from college are incapable of understanding principles of objectivity and the pursuit of truth. In fact, there have been many debates regarding the abilities of news journalists to be objective in this current day and age.

Back before OfftheBus (the initiative that launched Fowler in '08) it was the hyperbole around the term "citizen journalist" that got a lot of bloggers motivated to delve into the fray and try to become something other than unpaid personal publishers. I've always hated the term "citizen journalist' and found it somewhat derogatory. It always seemed to mean that you, the "citizen journalist" was going for the guts (byline) and not the glory(pay.) In 2005 I ruminated on the term and found that it was best used to describe journalists who had left the newspaper or magazine industry to be private citizens yet still published from time to time--and that the term was not really descriptive of what citizens, at that time, were doing with blogs.

We have seen many changes since 2005, and there are some great "citizen journalists" out there who have created news sites for their local neighborhoods and are carrying forward with the ideas of "civic journalism." That is indeed one kind of citizen journalist.

And I doubt today that many would be willing to call the person who posts an anonymous snarky diary blog or a teen-ager posting to LiveJournal a "citizen journalist." As they once might have argued vociferously in the halls of academia....

So where does that leave Fowler in the journalist vs. citizen journalist fracas? Well, I have some trouble with many of the things she says in this regard. Fowler goes back and forth, wanting to get paid for reporting, but not wanting to consider herself a journalist. As if to consider herself one she is perhaps insulting a whole bunch of others who have "paid dues" literally to a union or in a figurative sense to some gods of journalism. As I learned after my own HufPo experience (where I wasn't paid but was edited), if one is going to have one's work go through an editorial process, and one is going to get paid for one's work, then one is, in some form, a journalist. Why deny it? One can certainly have respect for the "who, what, when, where, why" local or national reporter and still be a journalist in his or her own right....

This is something I had to get used to myself. It took, and continues to take, lots of good conversations with longtime journalists to remind me that, yes, I've built a reputation beyond blogger, and can indeed call myself, at least, an online journalist. Yes, I even have a professional membership in the Online News Association. All that took was getting the respected, paid bylines.

Deep down, though, I have to believe that my writing is worth being paid for, and that I must be paid in some form or another for my work. Whether it is livebloging/"livetweeting" a really great conference (where I get "paid" by having the registration fee waived) or getting a check for something I wrote, I will not write for free. There may be some rare circumstances where I might contribute for free, but the organization must have some merit and certainly must enhance my bottom line in some form. I will not submit posts of 500 words and be paid $10 because some guy somewhere wants to build a "great blog network." Are you kidding me? I'm not going to put in my time and my effort, even for a blog post, for a mere 10 bucks.

To get to this point, it has taken years of constant building, of making connections, of working on start-ups and for very low pay. It's been a lot of pushing and insisting and serendipitous interactions that have contributed to bringing me from mere blogger to paid online journalist. Not to mention the great people who've been part of the process in one way or another--as supporters, as folks who've given me a break, as just cheering section. Still, I have a very long way to go before I am able to support myself totally from what I make thur writing.

But, when I consider where many other folks might be in their quest to be more than just a "blogger," I consider myself lucky, even with all the struggles and the bill collectors and the big ole annoying tax bills and lousy part-time jobs, and lectures and webinars and workshops I have to do in while I continue get paid for my writing.

So, Mayhill Fowler can stand on principals, can be wishy-washy on whether or not she wants to be, or even is, a kind of journalist. As for me, whether I'm using a blogging platform or a Google Doc or whatever, I want to be paid for my work when I'm writing for someone else. I want to be considered an online journalist who knows how to blog. Because I do know the process of journalism, I can be objective, and I do pursue truth (now). Not to mention that I'm also a damned good writer. :)

Note: While Fowler was standing her ground with HufPo, another blogger who's not a journalist (that I know of), Mike Arrington, founder of TechCrunch sold the most important blog in Silicon Valley to AOL. From all that I've read, Mike worked his ass off to build TechCrunch into something important--and yes, a lot of negative things have been said about Mike and powerbrokering in Silicon Valley over the years. I know nothing of that stuff. All I know is that he built it himself, posted constantly to keep it going, and wasn't a jounalist to start out with. Sure like most bloggers, many would argue that he's still not a journalist. But what he's done is pretty admirable.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The death of RSS might be greatly exaggerated. Here's why....

bye, bye Bloglines
There was quite a bit of discussion this week about the viability of RSS once word got out that the Bloglines reader--once the most popular RSS reader (and most simple to use)--would be shutting down as of October 1. Bloglines isn't the first RSS reader to shut down, and there are still a whole lot of people who use RSS readers, even if the casual or less tech-savvy reader has stopped.

First, let's talk RSS readers. Years ago when I started talking about the power of blogs to small business owners, I suggested they start using an RSS reader to track news in their industry and other related bloggers. Back then, there weren't too many readers other than Bloglines, FeedDemon, and perhaps Pluck's reader (which a client told me about.) Pluck shut down its reader in January, 2007. At the time of the shutdown announcement, ReadWriteWeb's Richard McManus declared in headline "Consumer RSS Readers a Dead Market Now."

In that article, McManus gave three alternatives for consumers: Microsoft's Outlook integrated reader, MyYahoo's mail integrated reader, and the upcoming Google Reader (also integrated with Gmail, then the hot new email client on the block.)

The shift at that time was from desktop or separate web-based readers to readers included with email. Consumers could check their mail *and* check their news.

Novel concept, eh??

One of the reasons Bloglines probably lasted longer than Pluck's reader may be that it had fairly high adoption levels among bloggers, who weren't necessarily the most tech savvy folks even if many were "early adopters." Bloglines was suggested to me in 2005 by fellow blogger Jill Fallon. It became the go-to site where I could not just collect feeds but also bookmark and keep individual posts.

Remember, in 2005 many of us didn't use Delicious. It was, more than likely, not known outside of geekier circles. In fact, its founder didn't leave his day job until 2005, once the project received significant venture capital. became more popular after Yahoo! acquired it in December '05., in 2005 we have, which took the place of one of the tasks of an RSS reader.

Then, along came Google Reader in October, 2005. Gmail had just opened to the public in August of that year, but opening an account wasn't necessarily a consumer-friendly process. Google also got Gtalk going, hoping to lure people away from AOL Messenger and other chat clients.

Gtalk didn't necessarily take of bigtime--like a lot of Google products--but the Google Reader did. I would hazard a guess that it had something to do with a really nice user interface and features that made it easy to email articles to others, etc. Google could see the social networking writing on the wall, and that information wanted to be shared as much as it wanted to be (cost) free.

Which leads me back to Bloglines. In many of the posts I read on the demise of Bloglines, few if any have noted what type of RSS reader consumers might be using in its stead. The overall assumption is that consumers are now relying on links from friends on social networking sites.

But that begs the question: where are these authoritative friends getting their information? Are they going directly to websites from their browser's bookmarks? Or are they, perhaps, perusing headlines on custom homepages that may include an RSS aggregator? Could they also be picking headlines from email integrated RSS readers?

To really know what's going on with RSS readers, some smart analysts would have to do a bit of market research.  Otherwise, what's being said in the press is a lot of conjecture about the health of RSS. Now, . assuming that RSS is dead because Bloglines is shutting down and, supposedly, "people" get their news from their social network neglects the places where RSS readers reside. Further, it neglects how and why people other than "people" are using RSS readers. In the work I do for the Telefonica Developers Blog, and for work I've done for the WeMedia conferences, for Placeblogger, for, and for others, I'd say that I'd be up a creek without an RSS reader.  And, since so many other businesses, including most media businesses (and, yes, that includes p.r. firms) generate RSS feeds for at least part of their sites,  it may be safe to say that for many professionals in media, marketing, public relations, and many related (and perhaps even un-related) industries, RSS readers are still quite important for accessing the most information in a concise and timely manner.

Further:  the post that had so many bloggers, tech journalists and the like freaking out about the imminent death of RSS as a whole started with this post from Doug Leeds on the blog.  The fact that has been lagging as a search engine for years, and that Bloglines was purchased by Ask in '05 rather than Google, Yahoo! or even Microsoft (which developed their own RSS readers) says more about Bloglines and than it says about RSS readers as a whole.  Think about it.....

Monday, September 13, 2010

From 2005 and Present Again.....On Reviving the Constant Observer

Back in May, I decided to take some time away from blogging to work on other projects. It was a good idea at the time. I had a backlog of writing projects to complete, a workshop series to teach, and a webinar to put together. It was asking way too much to divide my time between the preparation for those three things and blog with some consistency--not to mention manage the day to day tasks involved in running one's own singleton household (quite the responsibility, actually.)

Now, the writing projects are complete, the workshop is finished, and while I'm working on a few more webinars and blogging daily at the Telefonica Developer's Blog, I find that I can indeed pick up blogging again--here at the Constant Observer and at other blogs (which I will mention at the end of this post.)

In fact, the significance of blogging in my life has changed somewhat. In 2005, when I started this blog, its purpose was to shift my focus from personal essay blogging to observation and analysis. That process took several months to figure out--you can see that in some of the posts from that time. That same year, I tapped into the tech, marketing and journalism conference circuit. I went to the very first women bloggers conference, BlogHer, which is now a thriving franchise. I tapped into the Berkman Center for Internet and Society. I met many wonderful people whose names some of you would know, and others you would only know if you were a certain kind of insider....

What ended up happening was that I met some of the most interesting people--folks who are shaping what is becoming of the Internet and of new media, technology, mobile tech, the newspaper industry, the magazine industry, marketing, and the thing that became "social media" (a term almost nauseating in its ubiquity nowadays--and not consistent in its meaning.)

All influenced me in some way or another, and many helped me along the road to figuring out what it is I want to do in this vast media/technology space. Did I want to start a hyperlocal news blog? Did I want to write marketing copy for blogger outreach? Did I want to develop something cool and new, or did I want to help something cool and new become the Next Big Thing?

In some sense, I've figured out part of what I'm going to be when I grow up. I like writing--even when I struggle with writer's block. I like ferreting out the truth (some call that being a journalist). I like making money when I write about the truths that I've found, even when people aren't comfortable with those truths--and indeed many aren't. And even though I've developed a reputation and a portfolio, the publishing landscape has changed, and blogging is important for freelancers, copywrighters, editors--pretty much anybody looking to have work featured anywhere. It's a rare place that looks down on blogging these days (well, maybe some newspapers--but even that's changing.)

So, I'll be blogging here again--as well as the occasional post at Cinema Omnibus--my Postserous blog on cult cinema/grindhouse/etc, as well as a to-be-created fashion blog. These two blogs represent personal personal passions that are fun to write about (and may, I hope, lead to other gigs.) The content here, on this blog, will be more focused: more tech blogging, more research, more interviews, more mobile industry (because it's an exciting space.) Less on "social media"--because everybody and their siblings seem to be writing about it while, simultaneously, saying very little. So I won't bother wasting any further hot air unless connected to larger issues beyond "why your business needs to use social media for marketing purposes."

And there you have it. I hope to be doing a little liveblogging tomorrow, depending on whether or not I can do a 5 a.m. wake-up call. If not, I will be blogging on some tech issue, I'm sure.

As the old blank billboards used to say "Watch This Space...."

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Find me at, so long and thanks for all the cookies...)

May marks the five-year anniversary of this blog, and I've had some time to think about where this blog is going as much as I have about where I'm going(career-wise.)

This blog is now going on extended--and perhaps permanent--hiatus. Part of this decision has to do with the simple fact that, after five years, this blog feels played out. Five years is a long time in blog years, and I've pretty much said all that I've want to say using this blog. More importantly, I've found a better venue for the stories I have been wanting to write and that I am capable of writing.....

Currently, I am working on several articles, including two 3-article series, for's E-Media Tidbits column. I've been a contributor to this column since 2006 and have watched it evolve beyond a blog into a full-fledged column on important changes in the newspaper industry and journalism landscape that are brought on due to the rapidly changing environment of the Internet. I am currently writing on "content mills" as well as on services that work with newspapers on copyright issues, and more. I have the freedom, flexibility, and editorial oversight at Poynter that I've wanted for a long time. I'm happy to be there and more than happy that Poynter likes and encourages my work.

I'm also looking to do more freelance writing. Granted, this is hardly the time to start a freelance career--what with all the lay-offs. But I have a strategy, and I'm more interested in getting some sort of pay for what I write than I am for writing stuff just for the heck of it.

Writing isn't the solution to the career dilemma though. There are far more opportunities in social media nowadays than there were when I started this blog. There are more community development positions, more director of social media positions--the space is "hot" at the moment I am told. So, why not take all that I've done--all the projects, all the teaching, all the speaking--and bring that to a place that will value my expertise.

As for blogging in general, I may be starting up at other sites--but blogging isn't necessarily what it used to be. The blogosphere is a crowded landscape now, with highly organized and well-financed media and business blogs crowding out the voices of people. Which is kind of sad, actually. The blogosphere was a fun place way back when, and I think I miss some of the collegiality that used to exist here--even though I was only a small part of it.

So, it is fondly, sadly, happily, that the Constant Observer bids a fond farewell to the blogosphere as I once knew it, as it is becoming...and as I am becoming something more than just a bigmouth in blogosphere.

P.S.: I've started a Posterous site on my passion for old movies: Cinema Omnibus I was going to keep "professional" kind of posterous, but I figured that it was time to have some fun again with blogging. And if I wanted to write seriously, I could write for someone else's blog. So, that's the upshot of all of this. Blogging, for me, isn't necessarily a profession, unless I'm getting paid to do it. And if I'm not getting paid for it, I'm going to write about what I want to write about. Which, apparently, is old movies....

Monday, April 19, 2010

Will "content" kill "journalism"?

Ever since the term "content mills" was coined, and ever since there's been much hue, cry and discussion on Demand Media (what some considered the preeminent content mill) and their deal with USAToday's Travel section, I've been wondering: is "content" a form of journalism, or is it just website filler with little or no journalistic value?

Or is it really that cheap "content" on a news site becomes a great way for a news site to increase its revenue?

And is cheap "content" the new alternative to "expensive" journalism? (even when some of that journalism wasn't that expensive in the first place....)

A quick-and-short Google search on the topic of "is content journalism" didn't reveal much. Although, oddly enough, a misspelling of the word "journalism" did mine a great discussion on Mark Brigg's blog (cached copy only). Briggs asks some very important questions regarding content vs. journalism:

Journalists prefer their craft not be cheapened with a label like “content.” But what if that’s what’s been killing the business?

Do consumers (readers) differentiate between a product called journalism than one simply known as news or content? They pay for this content with their time and attention, which is why plenty of web sites that publish content are making plenty of money with advertising. Sites that focus on journalism, however, are still struggling with this basic economic model. . .

Is it just journalists who feel that the word "content" cheapens what they do? Maybe it's not just journalists. As a news consumer, I'm concerned about the connotation and evolution of the word "content" to describe what I'm reading. Here's why: not too long ago (and even currently) the term "user-generated content" was used to describe pretty much anything that was coming into a site, or was produced for a site (blog, etc) that was not produced by a professional journalist. What defined a professional journalist was debatable: is it whether or not someone has a degree? or writes for pay for a newspaper or other "journal"? or because they belong to a particular union? What defined "user-generated content" however, was pretty clear: stuff publishers got for free, from the general public; usually poorly written stuff that nobody would want to publish in print, but they'd be glad to publish, and not pay for, on the web.

In 2007, the owner of a Santa Rosa TV station said he wanted "harvest" user-generated content to fuel his station's evening news program....

User-generated content has been viewed by owners of media outlets as cheap, poor quality stuff that had as much a hope of getting legitimately published as journalism as a snowball has a chance of making it from one side of Hell to the other.

Removing the words "user-generated" from "content" doesn't make it much better. "Content" is still synonymous with lower quality writing than professionally produced journalism--even if the content is produced by journalists who are no longer working for newspapers or magazines due to staff cuts.

That's another part of the conundrum: if a journalist loses his/her job, is that person no longer a journalist? Does that person, who perhaps now works as a freelancer, become simply a "content producer" who toils for the highest-paying-of-the-low-wage content production houses? Does that person then switch fields to public relations or marketing simply to get a good paying job?

Which makes me wonder: "content mills" might be helping to prop up the failing business models of newspapers, but could the reliance on cheaply produced "content" end up lowering the standards and quality of "journalism". Or is "content" just another disruptor on the road to something new and better?

For further reading: Ken Doctor's post The Newsonomics of Content Arbitrage raises some points about content and curation and that editors may end up becoming "content brokers" (as in someone who buys content from a third party vs. content directly from an individual.) Listed also a a number of "brokerage" initiatives going on right now.

Also check out: "Seed's Goal Is To "Redefine Journalism For The Internet Age," Its Reality Is Untangling Cat Hair an interesting look into AOL's new content-on-the-cheap site.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

How the study of religion social media...

This week, the Alumni Association of Smith College is hosting A Century of Women in Type: A Conference for Smith Women in Media. I've been asked to be on a panel on blogging and new media, for which I'm truly honored. But it's got me thinking about my major--Religion and Biblical Literature--and how the academic study of religion relates to a deeper understanding of social media....

The academic study of religion is certainly not what many people think: it is nothing like Catholic school religious education, or any other belief system's authorized "kiddie" education. That kind of education is usually about dogmas, how to worship properly, and how to put together the right defense of a faith. Rather, the academic study pushes one to think critically about religions of the world, not just about one's own faith, and how those beliefs have shaped the history and cultures of the civilizations from which they emerged.

But that academic study of religion is also about trends that emerged to shape and re-direct the beliefs and the prevailing culture. It's about movements like the Iconoclast Controversy of the Byzantine Empire and the Reformation. In the study of religion, one learns how so many of these movements started at the "grassroots" and often appealed to the zeitgeist of the times. I always think of Martin Luther, and how he wanted to have the Bible published in the vernacular, not just Latin, so that the "common folk" could read it.....

Now, so many of the people I know see the various forms of self-publishing on the Internet as akin to the emergence of the printing press. Rather, it's not the Internet itself that is akin to the printing press. Self-publishing is more akin to Luther's ideal of the Bible in the vernacular....

Think about it: what, actually, is "citizen journalism" if it isn't putting the tools (and even principles) of journalism in the hands of The People? If one thinks of it this way, all those downsized journalists and concerned citizens who've started hyperlocal sites are like little Martin Luthers, publishing their own hyperlocal Bibles in their vernaculars.....

Think, too, about marketing: in marketing, the discussions have evolved around creating product "evangelists"--people who will go out and spread the word about the goodness of a product. Apple computer has some of the most ardent "evangelists"--people who are loyal to Apple and will always talk about the goodness of Apple products.

Praise the Jobs and hallelujah!

Community building is also an integral part of the social media experience. It is also a major part of the religious experience as well. And this is something that runs through almost all faiths and across all cultures. How we build these communities, why we build them, is as important in social media as it is in religion...

How odd....

So, the academic study of religion has enabled me to understand how people across centuries have changed their basic beliefs when emerging trends have resonated with them, and where the evangelism was strong. Because I spend most of my time in the thick of social media (and not in post-grad religious studies) it is easy for me then to see where trends in social media are emerging, and how they emerge: how a group of "apostles" can create "evangelists" who will proselytize for a product or service or way of thinking , and if that particular thing resonates with The People, it will flourish (kind of like the Doctrine of Predestination among the burghers of Geneva.) I can see into how the philosophies of social media are fashioned, and how those ways of thinking can be used to foster communities. I see, too, how communities are important to the survival of social media--because humans are social, and communities are like the bedrock of any belief, whether that is a belief in a product, or service, or in Something Much, Much Greater than Ourselves.

Think about it.....

Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Meditation on the Personal Nature of American Art

The other day, I met up with Patrice Lamothe, CEO of Pearltrees. It was an interesting meeting, and I mentioned to him that I'd gone to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art earlier that day. Funny thing is, Patrice is from Paris. So, there's something of an irony there, if you think about it....

I tend to fall into ironic conversations with people quite often. Guess that could be because I'm unassuming and don't necessarily pass value judgements--esp. when it comes to art. It's not that I don't know anything about classical art: I started my college career as a Fine Art major, and had to take art history. So, I get the basic gist of the importance of art in the culture of countries like France.

But to say that is not to value the importance of art to American culture as well. Our art, however, doesn't have quite the same long history, nor does have quite the same affect....

I loved the study of art history: how art reached a height during what we commonly call the "ancient" world of Greece and Rome, only to be lost during the Dark Ages. How it took forever for artists to figure out to sculpt a figure in a natural pose. How it took the Reformation to bring about a change in subject matter....and so forth.

American art, though, is different. We haven't had to contend with kings and clergy dukeing it out for power. We haven't had the same kind of upbringing, so to say, that would make it shocking to see someone we know posed provocatively in a picture.
We, however, have a problem with understanding the difference between advertising and metaphor, with understanding religious symbols and imagery, with keeping words out of our art...

Ever notice how American art is kind of wordy? From Roy Lichtenstein to Barbara Kruger, so much of our art has words in in. Or it is a single color canvas, European art, even modern European art, just isn't as wordy nor as monochromatic.

American art is also deeply personal. For the centuries that European art has been produced, it often wasn't particularly with the sense of art as personal expression--perhaps not until the Renassance. That's not to say there wasn't personal expression in European art--it's just that, well, American art seems so heavy with it..

In American art, it's always been there. Maybe because America as a state of creativity comes about way after those struggles for creativity and self-expression in European art....

I don't know, I'm just speculating...

But American art isn't necessarily there to get us to think about God, or to admire our monarchs, or to express some religious or mythical allegory. These things bleed through from time to time--but our sense of what is allegory and mythical, of who our kings are (elected, not born) and what God is to us is drastically different.

We also have a thing about abstraction. Most of the American art I've viewed over the past two days--in San Francisco and in San Jose--has been abstract. If not abstract, surreal or hyperreal. It seems to me that we have more of that than we do of classical art (although, yes, there's the Hudson River School and all that) And even what looks something akin to classical art--works by Thomas Eakins or John Singer Sargent--are still shockingly American in their subject matter and style.

In other words, American art, just doesn't look, nor does it feel like the art of France or Italy or Spain or anywhere else in the world. It is a strange amalgam of nothingness and being, of the future with a very immediate past that blends and makes up what is present and today. To understand some of our artists you have to understand so much of the past, while with others, you need to know nothing other than the at-that-moment images they are giving you from one slice of their lives or just of their psyches.

So maybe, in some sense, it's not all that ironic nor strange to discuss art from an American viewpoint with someone who is from Paris, where some of the world's masterpieces reside. We do occupy the same world today, a world where imagination shapes technology, and, to some, technology is itself a form of art.....

Think about it...

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Four aspects that could make AOL's local "white spaces" work

Yesterday, I wrote about how AOL's new "white spaces" for local journalism might not work. There are, however, a couple of ways they might work:

1. Proprietary alogrithms. If AOL has a proprietary alogrithm (like Demand Media) that will tweak headlines to hit on the proper keywords. However, on a local level, this will still have to be connected to some sort of geo-located search capability. If AOL develops an algorithm that partners geo-tagged ads with geo-tagged headlines, there might be something to it.

2. Watch what Foursquare is doing with geo-location and geo-tagging. Foursquare had made some huge, prestigious deals with major media companies that are going to make it a real player in semantic advertising--and could either hurt or help newspapers (What does Foursquare mean for Which means it could also help/hurt local independent news sites with geo-location. Also see How to Make Your Small Business Geo-Ready on Mashable.

3. Semantic advertising gets better-- Google and others are working on algorithms that will match the right local ads with the right local content. There was lots of talk and lots of interest in this at the recent SIIA Information Industry Summit, as the algorithms are getting better, and Google's local search is getting better.

4. Paying reporters. People can't afford not to be paid in this economy. Sites like Demand Media, Examiner, and Newser--and other kinds of "content mills" (a contentious term)--are paying their reporters. Some of them don't pay much, but they pay. If AOL sets up some way for those who want to report on local to be paid something, then they might attract some of the local reporters who have lost their jobs, or local citizens who want to get paid something for their writing. Or they might not. Think: entrepreneurial spirit--and that some folks would rather do their own thing if they're not going to get paid. Then again, some journalists/reporters aren't entrepreneurs either and would just like a steady paycheck, no matter how low the paycheck is. Still, don't know how this might work for breaking stories. What might the pay scale/pay rate be for breaking stories, and would there be some sort of editorial oversight as there is for the evergreen content at Demand Media? Note: Jay Rosen has a new project starting between NYU and The New York Times that may pay citizen reporters. The editor will have a "war chest" at his/her discretion. Will be interesting to see what happens there, what the pay rate ends up as, etc.

So, if people give up on the entrepreneurial thing, and they're able to get paid, and there's some sort of geo-tagging that will link local ads with local content, where AOL's properties can push out other local content, then they might make money--

But if people don't like the product, then it still might not work. The social aspect has to be worked in somehow, beyond the engineering. After all, the Internet is full of people: people talk and people share things. That could also be what makes or even breaks AOL's planned content dominance in local space.

Think about it...

Saturday, February 20, 2010

AOL Revisits the Citizen Shovelware concept with (and why it won't work)

Some time back I wrote a scathing post about "citizen shovelware": that's when an "if you build it, they will come" philosophy is applied to the idea of citizen journalism, and some wise corporate dude puts up a site and expects the citizenry to populate it. It appears now that AOL is taking on the idea of citizen shovelware as it plans to expand to "hundreds" of sites, as was reported yesterday in Silicon Alley Business Insider.

As the more-or-less press release-y report notes, there are going to be bunches and bunches of empty pages put into Patch for local, probably citizen-generated, journalism--but where's the journalism going to come from? Are they going to pick up local blog feeds (as did?) and then are they going to ask the local bloggers if they can do this? or are they just going to scrape and aggregate the content (as did?) Are they going to then simply expect people to use their site because it's too-cool-for-school? or are they going to take the press releases and public announcements and other minutia from communities, slap the "citizen journalism" label on it, shove it into their CMS, and call their site a form of citizen journalism??

And I can't believe that the internal communication quoted in the SAI story said that AOL is planning to be "To be leaders in one of the most promising 'white spaces' on the Internet."

Honestly, given the ways in which people use social networking sites to communicate with one another and pass around hyperlocal news in the form of tweets and status updates, and given how hyperlocal sites are starting to pop up more frequently (mostly because of the downsizing of journalists and other news producers who actually liked their jobs and want to keep doing them) I have a hard time believing that this "white space" is going to get populated at all....

Oh, but there's a strategy! Recruit journalism grad students!! I wonder what the pay's going to be? Wonder how the grad students are going do the reporting, or if they're going to go around to Chamber of Commerce and BNI meetings to try to recruit local businesspeople? are they going to try to find the "superstars"--as did in the early days of their online news sites (going way, way back to about 2004...long history, won't get into it.)

The thing about hyperlocal journalism is that it seems to grow best when people who are rooted in the communities get the projects going. I've been watching this with both the Springfield Intruder and the new Northampton Media. I know both Bill Dusty of the Intruder and Mary Serreze of No'Media, and know their deep connections to their respective communities. One doesn't grow those kinds of connections by showing up one day and announcing that you're going to be building a local news site.

The thing that gets me about all these corporate sites getting into the local journalism space and some of the folks who write so glowingly about how corporate projects might work,is that they don't know too many people who've actually put together local sites, esp. local sites in SmallTown USA. Life in SmallTown is very different from life in or near large urban areas. There's less of an acceptance of "outsiders"--that doesn't mean that it's like the movie Deliverance. What it means (if you've never lived in a small town) is that people don't warm up to you because you have a bright idea to fix their local news problems...

But when it comes to the folks that are indeed connected--well, they are really, really connected. And I don't envision too many of them working to prop up corporate run sites--or at least for all that long. Corporate owned news organizations, whether online or not, are seen as something that should be toppled. The reasons for that vary as much as the people who start the sites and the regions where they are started. But corporate news in small towns is seen as inept and slanted. Oftentimes it is. People who start local journalism sites are looking for fresh, new, independent perspectives. They're not looking for a corporate home to host their work, because that would represent another level of "the man..."

Sure, some local businessfolks might be persuaded to contribute to a new corporate site--as some of the local businessfolks have done at they don't stay over the long haul. Their commitments are more to their businesses, and if the citizen journalism interferes with their business, they have to decide which is more important.

Another aspect of having businessfolks as citizen journalists is that use might their citizen columns to, essentially, promote their businesses rather than actually report. A citizen column in a local newspaper may be seen as a form of business promotion rather than as a service to their fellow citizens. So, readers then get what might be called "sponsored content" rather than news.

Apparently, my sentiment is that AOL's idea is wrongheadded, and whether or not it has the Patch label isn't going to make a difference. I'm not surprised that they think this--one of Patch's advisors (advisory-only role) has been Jeff Jarvis, who designed Advance's pioneering "citizen" blogging efforts, and Jeff's had lots and lots to say over the years about citizens helping corporations to keep afloat (a point he and I vehemently disagree on.) Sure, there are a few citizens who want to help the newspaper stay afloat, but the ones who have the real commitment to reporting in their regions aren't going to be contributing to corporate sites: at least that's what I've seen here in Western Mass. The citizens are apt to want to topple the ailing newspapers. The sentiment is that the newspapers have fallen down on their jobs: they do not report accurately, and that there is bias in some of the reporting on important community issues. There is a feeling that the newspaper is disconnected from the people, and might be serving other interests.

And why should one corporate entity replace another in a local region? Because they can make money because they are a corporation? That's not necessarily true. I've seen a number of independent projects make good money. (but that's a topic I won't get into in depth here--that's another post....)

One of the tactics that corporate sites have taken with folks who want to start community sites is to tell them that their sites won't get found in search. Well, there's a grain of truth in that: Google's local search hasn't been all that good. Yet that was before the advent of social networking sites--where links are passed around quicker than a joint at a concert in the 1970's. And let's not forget that Google's actually working on improving geo-located search as it improves real-time search.

More than what Google's doing is what people are going to do on social sites--traffic will happen for local sites because links are posted and passed around among the people who need to read them. Local sites can also take advantage of syndication through e-readers: which they can do independently! Amazon's Kindle welcomes them, with just a working RSS feed! So the avenues for getting out there are not limited to Google search.

So, perhaps AOL should think a little further about putting up all that white space, as much as they think about what their brand, and what the Patch brand, might represent to people in a local area. Chances are that the local newspaper's brand is probably better than theirs. And that the independent local site's brand is even better.

Just a thought....

So while some folks might be

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Could Google's focus on real-time search screw up finding older news?

I recently wrote a piece for on Google's new focus on real-time search--which, if you're looking for the most up-to-date news, esp. on an emergency, is probably a good thing. But today, as I looked for articles on the 2008 comments controversy at the Hartford Courant (which had Mayor Eddie Perez standing on the steps of the Courant giving the publisher hell) I found zip, zero, nada....

I was looking for that info so that I could put it in a piece I was working on about Engadget closing off comments due to incivility (which it had also done in 2005.) I figured it'd be good to reference both the 2008 Courant controversy, as well as the 2006 WaPo controversy that had newspaper commenters all up in arms about their First Amendment Rights (which they really don't have when they foul-mouth any publication's comments section.)

But if I can't find the articles on the previous incidents, then I can't really have a coherent article now, can I? All I'm really doing then is parroting back information on what Engadget's doing without giving any context to a discussion about how it might be different for newspapers, and how newspapers haven't had as easy a time of handling their comment boards as Engadget has...

I think I tried every single permutation of search terms I could think of, and I got all sorts of unrelated junk. Seriously unrelated junk. Junk about Tiger Woods --which for the life of me I couldn't figure out how that got into a search on "hartfor courant turns off comments."

Maybe it was the "turned off" that did it? who knows.

I tried the search in quotes, and Google found nothing. I tried it without quotes, and came up with a whole bunch more junk on what the new Miss America said about turning off TV, and something about Obama saying something about Democrats turning off TV news...

But my search had nothing to do with TV. It had to do with comments.

Even when I tried "news forum comment controversy" I got nothing.

Oh, but I did get something about a guy being shot by a cop. I have no idea what that had to do with my search, but I will say it's a timely article.

Even Wikipedia was no help: it had links only to the most recent controversies at the Courant.

It's bad enough that the collective memory of people who use the Internet is fairly short: lord knows so many don't even get that there have been huge debates going on her regarding "online civility" for around 7 or 8 years now. The issue seems to go nowhere because no one seems to recall the old conversations and that those conversations were built on....

When we are unable to access information from the past, we lose context. If we lose context, we eventually will repeat the same stupid stuff from the past. Even for the Internet, as it is evolving mores and codes and such, there needs to be context. Nothing exists in a vacuum. Not even choices to close of comments sections.

Monday, February 01, 2010

On Writing, Wanting to be Heard, and Gratitude for Editors

When we are young, the images we get of the writing life are somewhat peculiar--the image is of the writer who toils in isolation most of the time, who, almost by magic, has an editor and is then transported into the world of publishing. We are so busy studying style and so forth that we aren't taught about the process that got the book from a bunch of typed pages to a bound first edition. And, the excessive study of guys like J.D. Salinger only seem to enforce to us that writing should be solitary, done for oneself, and that someone will magically find us and publish us...oh, bullshit...

Reading Jennifer Finney Boylan's essay on J.D. Salinger, attitudes about writing, and how a writer's life isn't one of isolation at all-- that the P.R. machine helps writers to be read. Boylan's seen what I have: how the study of literature doesn't prepare one for the realities of book promotion--what she sees as a necessity in today's downward-trending publishing industry.

Boylan also considers readers "an unbelievable gift." And, indeed, she's right. It's something that so many bloggers, esp. personal bloggers, yearn for. Stories want to be told, and the telling doesn't exist in a vacuum--writing isn't just about exorcising one's soul. It's also about being read.

In being read, we are heard. Being heard is sometimes the one thing that we've yearn for our whole lives. Some of us took to blogging simply to be heard--not particularly as a form of shameless self-promotion.

Yet in the world of blogging, I'm finding that, for me, being heard just isn't enough. I have been writing most of my life as a form of self-expression, with a desire that, someday, it might be heard by others. Self-publishing has helped, but after a time it gets to be a lot of work for little return. It's not that I don't appreciate those who are reading (and yes, you know who you are) it's that, after a lifetime of writing, I want more...

Over the years, I've taken several writing classes and seminars. In those classes and seminars, it was always pointed out how editors wanted to see perfection before publication. Being well aware of my imperfections--my lack of knowledge of AP Style, my spelling problems-- I felt for the longest time that I could never find an editor who would be there for me.

So, for me, blogging was almost a way of giving up on the idea of ever making money from anything I wrote in exchange for being heard.

I've always wondered what I would need to do to be perfect enough for editors: Do I need a Master's degree? Or do I just need a bit more confidence and a lot more luck? Yet it always seemed that there was no way I'd ever be able to reach that level of perfection that would enable me to get in front of an editor....

Lately, I have been lucky enough to work with editors--and to receive pay for my writing. I am grateful for this opportunity in a way that I've never felt before. It as if I'm really being heard now. The changes to my work have not damaged my voice--rather, they've made clearer the information I've wanted to get out to others. The writing I've done hasn't been about self-expression. I have a lot of that. It's been about information--the way of getting that out to people in a way that's understandable...

Because when one spends a great deal of time writing just for oneself, the head becomes an echo chamber. Everything makes sense because one knows deeply about what is being written. But do others understand what's being written? To me, the editorial process is a way that someone else helps bring forth what's in my head so others can better understand it.

Many of us who write--well, we're not literary giants. We're also not going to be literary giants. Even then, literary giants have editors. If an editor pays attention to what I'm trying to say, and is willing to help me say it better (not change me or my expression or anything like that) then, at this point in my writing life, I couldn't have asked for a more wonderful gift.

And as much as I have gratitude for those who read, I have gratitude for those who edit. At this point in time, it's those editors that are going to help me the most...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Blogging SIIA: Henry Blodget and Info wants to be expensive

Got to see Henry Blodget keynote at last year's SIIA-IIS. This year, he's moderating a panel with Gaby Darbyshire, COO of Gawker Media, Cheryl Milone, CEO of Article One Partners, and Jim Fowler, CEO Jigsaw Data Corporation.

There's some short intros going on now, with Gaby Darbyshire talking about Gawker Media (IMO: Gawker's got a profit based on paying their reporters very little. And from folks I know who've been assoc. with Gawker, they do not inspire loyalty among their staff. Then again, maybe they don't want loyalty--only low wages Update: heard from @nicknoted via Twitter that this has changed--wages at Gawker now comparable to print. and many recent hires.)

Darbyshire: availability of facts will be more widespread

Cheryl Milone: in the patents industry. Patents are now accessible to everyone, but tools to evaluate them are scarce. Article One launched a year ago--crowdsourcing model to research validity of patents. She believes that the crowsourcind aspect is going to grow--but who are the people doing the crowdsourcing? and what incentives do they have??

Jim Fowler: B2B data collections. Also providing a crowdsourcing model--but he notes that there is a community of professionals to manage. Disrupting not just how data is collected but how data is distributed. Their data is active--where database is changing all the time. They maintain and manage the database. If people don't want to be in Jigsaw's database, they can be removed--only collect account info and (one other kind of info I can't recall. it looks, however, that what they're collecting is public knowledge anyway.)

Derbyshire talking about the NYTimes and their announcement: maybe the Times is getting people used to the idea of metered pay, and perhaps hoping that others will do the same.

Blodget points out that maybe the Times is just scared that their metered plan is not going to work--and cites the Newsday debacle.

Derbyshire counters that she can understand why NYT would want to do this.

Blodget to Milone: "your products are better, why don't traditional firms do the same?" Article One's community is incentivized with some profit distribution to community. India firms asking to leverage their firm's excess capacity by doing work for Article One. Opportunity is strong enough that she sees traditional firms doing work for them.

Blodget to Fowler: "why doesn't B & D work with you?" Fowler: :The value isn't in the data itself, but in the changes in the data." In order to resist disruption, it's to recognize there will be disruption, so they developed a business model that will make money from the change in the data (which they push out in real-time.) when they push out, 40% of customers share their data and get a price break on Jigsaw's services. Holding on to data no longer has value--sharing data has value. People will pay for up to date data, and the best way to get it is for people to share it with you.

Darbyshire says NYT is hidebound to legacies that could be damaging them. NYT has lots of columnists that they can't tell from print if they are read or not. Metrics help Gawker show that their columnists are popular. (hmmmm...kind of backs up what Cision survey found...) "Fluff" brings spike from Google, but not an overall readership. Gawker knows what works for its audience from metrics, so it can allocate resources accordingly. Immediacy of reporting, conversational tone to their posts, helps Gawker. Lack of conversation in print hobbles the news industry (note: but is news a conversation? lots of newspeople would argue that it isn't.)

Fowler: need to let innovators take their time and not be pressured to make big money fast. You can't though, hemorrhage money on an innovation project. Keep discipline. CEOs need to give their people 20% of their day to innovate--the way google does. Have them go out and find 5 or 10 innovative projects and fund them. Buying innovation, however, doesn't always work (yeah, I've seen that happen--or the innovations get squashed.)

Darbyshire: economics of whole industry is getting reset at a lower level (true for news.)

Milone taking advice from disruptive companies that have survived. "Have a deep desire to understand (the customers) needs." Even the government should listen to customer needs.

Darbyshire: older big companies might have problems becoming smaller, lighter and more nimble.

Fowler notes how Jigsaw's created an alliance with Dun & Bradstreet that's a win-win for both. "Some companies can't be saved" says Fowler, and cites Encyclopedia Brittanica, which is being buried by Wikipedia....

Note: so, it all depends on the type of content that either wants, or can be, expensive. Data, if aggregated in real-time or at least timely, can certainly be expensive. Re-selling of crowdsourced data can definitely be a good business model, if the type of info that is crowdsourced is needed, hasn't been updated in awhile, o is difficult to understand and update....and news--whether news can ever be as expensive as it was in the 20th century is debatable. The economics of news are being reset at a lower point (Derbyshire, etc.) so news may need to be "cheap."

SIIA Previews a.m.: More Great New Services & Products!

Brand Thunder: a provider of customized toolbars to increase brand loyalty and reach. Not a bad concept and I can see a lot of use for it with a number of brands. They've got some great clients already. They're quick with roll-out, so there's little delay in building--and they have a revenue share (the only downside I see is that "fans" may-uninstall the toolbar at some point. but that might not be such a bad thing in the overall life of a site and may still increase brand awareness if not brand loyalty.)

HaraBara: Green information on demand. Helps companies get useful information on the "green" space. They take in content and filter: proprietary taxonomies, do a slice and dice of content to make it relevant to the B2B customer that needs this kind of information. (and there are lots of clients that could use this to counter any bad press that might be out there etc.)They cover both current and archival information, everything from blogs to government resources. Looking at being the LexisNexis for the Green space.

NetProspex: an online lead discovery service for the B2B industry. Combines crowd-sourcing with editorial control. Has a technology that uses a manual verification at the end of the crowdsourcing process--verifies what of the crowdsourced info might be best. Throws out about 80% of what's gathered--publishes only the unique and verified information. "the Ivy League ford data." Will be adding verified social media information in the future.

Blogging SIIA-IIS: Some important notes from Ken Doctor's keynote

Here at Day 2 of the SIIA's Information Industry Summit: there's lots of talk about the Apple Tablet, and what it's going to shake up. There's a video on YouTube about it.

Ken Doctor just made a very interesting comment about news: 40% less newsprint, 20% less staff--he doesn't think the downsizing is a good thing. Thinks that what "we don't know what we don't know" and that local/region reporting suffering.

Sobering stats from Doctor: 57% go to the Internet for immediate news--25% use broadcast sites daily. And only 10% of people surveyed "say they'd consider paying for news" and 50% scan Google for headlines without going to news sites ("Google is a central utility in our lives."

Self-marketing is big--advertising taking a downturn (but, as was indicated yesterday, creative is still important.)

What by 2015? 3D TV? Doctor's book "Newsonomics" coming out next week. Some things from the book: The "Digital Dozen" will dominate (ABC< AP< BBC< Bloomberg, CBS, CNN, NBC, NYTimes, NewsCorp, NPR, Thomson Reuters, WashPo.)

The New Local (as Doctor calls it) will be "Free for all"

Global opportunities for the Digital Dozen since there are 900 Mil people speak English. Has scale, but cost structure is too high.

A new farm system: CBS is using Global Post, Reuters is using Politico...

"In the Age of Darwinian Content: We're own on and each other's editors."

Average Internet user spends 5 hours, 32 mins on social media! makes 2 Billion referrals per month! whether they are articles/news or personal, there are some different stats from Rutgers on this.

Next step is Social Optimization.

Brands "advertis" on Social media with lots of coupons and offers.

The new Trfecta: Social, Mobile, Video (but I'm still not sure on video--soc. and mobile yes.)

Google now aggregating Tweets--real-time search is here...(Technology Review had something on this at the beginning of January.)

Analytics-Driven Content is roaring forward: AOL is creating content "on the fly" by looking at search (aggregation) Doctor mentions Demand Media: "increasingly, data is driving editorial content."

New models of journalism are focusing on advertising more than on quality of journalism: much is very low paid. Doctor elucidates the Examiner model (yes, I've heard of the Examiner, but don't read it...)

The Apple Table incorporates 4 of the Newsonomics laws:

Law 1: make it social
Law 2: approach the digital dozen
Law 5: gather other people's content
law 9: drive the business with data.

Some comments from me: Re Examiner and sites like that: they may have search, but do they have the brand?? IMO, I don't think so. I've seen Examiner--but if I want that kind of content, I'll go to a site like TMZ. So, what publications will Examiner hurt? Will their model be sustainable over time? And what about local coverage? Could they hurt local--where things are really hurting now....

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Blogging SIIA--More great services at Afternoon Previews

Previews can be the best part of SIIA--

HearPlanet: missed most of this presentation, but it's for mobile, but they have a whole lot of ways to get content out there in real-time, to your iPhone, Android, etc. They provide white label solutions--hmmm....good for small papers??

ORLive: leader in online video solutions to medical field. Video production, production support, etc. Allows surgeons to upload videos to share with peers. Created an interactive platform for its clients. Have a dedicated video network with strong following. Also has branded and custom video channels for customers. Get about 2 million unique visitors per year, and drive a lot of audience to partners, kind of like network affiliates. Looks like a great site for those who are in the medical field, as well as those who might be reporting on it.

Snac a mobile software and services corporation. Since apps are controlled by product providers, Snac provides application that is a mobile discovery/customized dashboard for content owners (not open to the iPhone--but on many other smartphones.) "Enabling companies to connect with their mobile consumers every day." Downloadable app creates an alternate homescreen page (iPhone user-like interface) They've been in beta for several months now, and doing well. There's a 160 million user market that can benefit from this app--those are smartphone/javaphone/BREW users. Potential partnership with iPhone...

Blogging SIIA: Notes On Ken Auletta's Keynote about Google

Before his book, Ken Auletta did a piece for the New Yorker on Google, and I was shocked by it--mostly because Sergy Brin and Larry Page were so dissed by the Washington Establishmet. So, I'm very much enjoying listening to what Auletta has to say....

Auletta sees Google as a huge library--and so does the rest of the world (he discovered...)

The most important thing about Google, Auletta found in research, is the trust that they created. He's going into some detail about how advertising...

Something he learned about engineers: Google's engineers succeed because they start with the assumption that traditional ways of doing things are inefficient (what founders believe) They realized that information was media--that traditional media was inefficient. Newspapers are inefficient--printing and distribution of newspapers is inefficient.

Old media buys in big media really didn't know who was getting ads--just that lots of people got the ads. Google "messing with the magic" that old media relied on by showing who gets the ads!

Google's engineers ask: why not? Why not index all the books out there?

Google's engineers given 20% of their days to work on their own projects. An Indian engineer wonders why there's so little news on the Muslim world: hence, Google News.

Auletta outlines all the things that Google has revolutionized--and that old media was blind to or thought was "too expensive."

Most traditional media companies put engineers down on the food chain--too many levels below the CEO to be effective. Auletta would hire a really great engineer and put him at his elbow--and suggests CEOs should do that.

The Innovator's dilemma: do you sacrifice new business for something unproven? Old media has decided to preserve old business than sacrifice. And then blames the digital world for its woes!(Auletta)

Auletta: In the short run, what Google does for consumers is good. In the long run, though, if news/books become a commodity that can no longer be afforded to produce, consumers will suffer. User-generated content doesn't generate income--advertisers want content that is reliable. Google announced last week that it's going to start charging, on YouTube, for independent movies like Netflix.

Advertising won't pay for content. They--media outlets--are going to have to charge (micropayments mentioned.) After the recession, Eric Schmidt realized they would need more than just advertising and would have to figure out what to charge for. Auletta sees YouTube become a platform both for UGC and for pay content.

iTunes was terrific for music companies, but what about Apple Tablet? Will it really help media companies create a revenue stream?? Auletta's not giving an opinion on this here.

Google worries about social networking sites being the referral sites vs. Google's search results. Google is also concerned about government--and how government might intervene.

It took electricity 71 years to reach all of public. It took 50 plus years for telephone to reach public widely. But it took less time for the Internet and only 5 years for Facebook. Things moving very, very fast, scaring old media who should be (in Auletta's view) asking what's next? and looking at what Google's doing.

Note: I asked Auletta about privacy and how Google sees it: they see it mostly as information (so it's agnostic) but also that they will use information we put out there for targeted advertising. I wonder if we've come to a point where we should be advising young people to put less information online, regardless of what their friends want? Perhaps.....

Blogging SIIA: Previews of New Products Tuesday a.m.

Last year, I saw some fabulous stuff at the SIIA Previews event--which was separate last year. Nice to see the Previews event into the "big show" this year. I'll be giving short descriptions of these interesting new companies/services:

Boardroom Insiders: provides access to C-level execs, helps to provide info on these execs to facilitate connection to these people. Boardroom Insider searches many public sources to mine information about C-levels to help clients to connect on a personal level. And yes, they are mining executive Tweets and other social networking sites too--so, IMO, CEOs and other C-levels, if they're going to tweet, should tweet about more than just trite stuff like links and aphorisms. That is, unless they don't want to be found....(BTW, they are hiring unemployed business journalists!)

DeepDyve: Netflix for Research! Mostly for non-institutional researchers who need to get information that they can't afford. It's difficult for writers to get research info from publisher sites, and article prices can be very high (how true!) So, DeepDyve helps non-institutional users (yes, that's lots of us!) to get stuff we couldn't afford. Articles are for "rent" for about $.99 each. Monthly subscriptions are for those who need more. They also have revenue share with partner sites (the ones providing content.) DD have a great reciprocal relationship with publishers, who are happy to get something rather than nothing for their content. Most institutional uses see DD as complimentary to their own sites and gives access to many who wouldn't be able to afford articles otherwise. Currently, most of their content is scientific content, but will be moving into social sciences and other content in the very near future (in talks with providers)

Something to think about: could something like DeepDyve work for newspapers that want to put investigative pieces behind a "pay wall"? Perhaps.) Gives publishers easy way to recommend info to users based on what they've viewed in the past. (note: I can see this working well for newspapers with big databases.) does with content what Netflix, Amazon and Pandora already do. They launched private beta recently. The user enters in some information on interests, and recommends news for them based on these criteria. They are licensing this info to publishers--and I'm looking at a personalized recommendation widget as it might look at the Los Angeles times. Today, they are releasing their Publisher platform (with whitelabel widget--and I signed up to test

More to come

Intro to SIIA--and notes on Michael Hansen/ Elsevier Health Sciences on Counter-Intuitive Strategies for Growth

This is my second year attending the SIIA Information Industry Summit--one of the most interesting conferences that I've had the pleasure of attending. It's always an interesting group of people--folks that are shaping what's going on in the world of content production.

Now, content production isn't something that crosses people's minds when it comes to publishing--we think more of journalism, or book publishing, or anything that's b2c or public facing. Yet in academic and business circles, "content production" is a big deal.

I'm watching Michale Hansen CEO of Elsevier talking about Galilleo, who was first publshed by Elsevier--speaking of course strengths and what a publishing co. can bring to the outside world. Elsivier's strength is info on health sciences.

Galilleo story Hansen's relayed is that sometimes one has to think outside the box and be counter-intuitive to know what's going to happen/change, etc.

Hansen says: One of these is government regulation--perspective on most regulation is bad. But healthcare regulations have been good: speaking of the FDA and the effect it had on pharmaceuticals (that we don't get unintentionally poisoned....)

Hansen's not going in the direction of a discussion on healthcare reform--but he agrees with most of us that there is a need for reform (esp. when we are in a "freelance economy"--my take on it. freelance economy needs nat'l healthcare to survive.)

Hansen believes there's a crisis of information, not just a crisis of costs. People are "injured" because they are getting the wrong perscriptions. Somebody didn't have the right information, and therefore, got the wrong info.

Some stats: there's a 33% chance that, if you have a chronic disease, you might not get treated according to the right protocols. There's also a 3-5% chance that you might have an "adverse event" at a hospital (?!?!) Hansen believes that these problems are a crisis of information--that if hospitals had the correct and up to date info, these things wouldn't happen.

But we don't have the "pipes" for an exchange of info between hospitals and doctors--even though we have the technology. (this is true!)

The got. have determined that there are "never events": events that are preventable and shouldn't happen, such as bedsores. But because of "never events" if this happens to you, your insurance might not pay for treatment....

As an info provider, Hansen sees Elsevir as needing to provide info, at point of care, for providers to act on. Yet, physicians don't have the time (approx. 6 mins per patient!) The task is: how to get this info to physicians so that they can consult online resources that have the right information. Elsevir has a new service that brings info to point of care....

Yet in the health info providers say this is not a good thing--that providing this info might make the info provider libel. Act counter-intuitive and provide the info anyway is Hansen's way of looking at it.

Also, provide the customer with what they need: with hospital budgets going down, how can they afford info services like Elsevir. Elsevir did an audit of Trinity Hospital's info services and found where they could reduce costs for Trinity--this was a counter-intuitive move, as they sometimes had to recommend competitor products that are cheaper.

Hansen notes that many companies that say communication is paramount to them, don't necessarily share as much information as they should. Yet this is the time when employees are most vulnerable and in need of information. That companies might counter a sense of loss of control by providing more information to its employees--not withholding it to protect the company's reputation or fear of employee reactions. Hansen relates a story of allowing employees to help figure out what budget items needed to be cut, that these things help companies to survive the downturn *and* succeeding in the production: that loyalty of employees and customers along with developing products, will keep a company vital when things are going well for the company (when many companies get complacent.)

My take: this is interesting vis journalism--mostly as it concerns local newspapers. Can they be counter-intuitive? or are so many of the local chains too highly leveraged that they cannot do anything counter-intuitive? I wonder how an individual in the newspaper industry might be able to convince a newspaper to do something counter-intuitive.

Likewise with marketing: In many smaller businesses where there's "no-time" to solve problems of marketing with social media. It makes me wonder if the resources of the business are not being allocated properly so that the right person within the company can take on the execution of social media (and I don't mean staff--staff in a small business might be the right person to execute, but should staff be responsible for the strategy? probably not.)

It's always tough listening to a CEO talk--they are often really excited about their businesses, and it can be tough to separate the info from the pitch. Yet sometimes even within pitches there is some good information. It's getting to that kernel of truth that can make them worth a listen.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Ken Auletta to keynote 2010 SIIA Information Industry Summit

Last year I got invited to liveblog the SIIA Information Industry Summit, and have been invited to liveblog the event again this year. I'm really excited to be part of this event again: last year, I learned a great deal about SaaS (software as a service,) the "content creation" business and about guys in white dinner jackets and black ties, who take your coat at the entrance to the conference (needless to say, that was something like a "well, I've arrived" moment...not to mention all the austere middle-aged men in black suits...)

The SIIA--Software and Information Industry--is an organization that few outside the B2B content, SaaS, and other B2B services know all that much about. Yet it is an incredible organization of C-level and other high-ranking executive types. Their openness to bloggers has been great: I've never been given restrictions nor have I been treated as if I were a barbarian storming the gates. In fact, I've felt very comfortable in this group.

Go figure ;-)

This year's keynote will be New Yorker communications columnist Ken Auletta. I read an article sometime ago that Auletta wrote about when Sergey Brin and Larry Page first went to Washington D.C. to meet with our fearless leaders and were summarily dismissed as kids playing around. It was a story I'd never heard, and I was totally boggled by the ways that Brin and Page were dismissed.

It left me thinking--"well, just because some people have all the power, doesn't mean they're all that knowledgeable nor that gracious..."

So I'll be looking forward to what Auletta has to say in his keynote, and whether it will differ in any way from Jeff Jarvis' views on Google.

Henry Blodgett, CEO and Editor of The Business Insider will be speaking again this year. I don't know what it is that I like about Blodgett--maybe that he still seems to ruffle the feathers of the status quo--but I found his talk at the '09 IIS to be one of the most informative. Blodgett also gave a fantastic answer to my rather direct question about the NYT/Gatehouse suit that had yet to be settled. Here's my re-cap of his '09 talk, which remains one of the best I've heard about online journalism to date.

Along with liveblogging, I scored an opportunity to interview Tracey L. Armstrong, President and CEO of the Copyright Clearance Center. In all the discussions I've heard regarding copyright, I was totally unaware of this organization and the amount of information they provide to help understand and protect copyright. I'm very curious to know what they think of copyrighted works on the web....and perhaps what they might think about paywalls around newspapers...

The SIIA Information Industry Summit takes place in NYC (my favorite city), Jan. 26 & 27. If you happen to be in NYC around those dates, and want to chat, just email. And thanks, to the SIIA for including me in their liveblogging crew.